Reflections on ageing at the National Portrait Gallery

It's an uninspiring and rainy Bank Holiday Monday today, and both Graham and I have rather persistent and unforgiving hangovers following a lovely day yesterday entertaining friends, followed by a night out at the local drag cabaret. We still woke up early though – we always do – so I persuaded Graham to come on a jaunt to the National Portrait Gallery before the crowds got too overwhelming.


I wanted to see this year's BP Portrait Award before it closes on the 20th September. I love this exhibition, and go every year without fail. It is an outing that's so much better to do with a friend than on your own, because the portraits always prompt discussion and comment. What I particularly loved this year was the number of fascinating and thought-provoking portraits of elderly people. This one of two older men sitting in the kitchen at the end of a party, discussing German history, made me smile and reminded me of my great day with friends yesterday.

After we'd finished at the NPG, we headed towards Soho where we went our separate ways for an hour. Graham went to a few drum shops and I prowled around a couple of fabric shops. We met up again in Liberty where I squished some nice wool and had a productive discussion with the sales assistant about different types of knicker elastic.

On the way back downstairs this unassuming war memorial halfway up the staircase made me stop and think. Sixteen young people who worked at Liberty were killed during World War Two – an enormous number I think from the employees of just one shop. They didn't live long enough to become the elderly people with so much experience in their faces, whose portraits I had so admired earlier in the day at the NPG.

Releasing the pause button

I had two and a half weeks off between the shifts, and we went down to South West France to stay with family. We were looked after, loved, fed and plied with wine.


I felt a very long way from the home, especially when Graham and I were hiking in the forests and river gorges.

We're back in London and back at work now; and as wonderful and soul-restoring as a summer holiday is, it's also lovely to be back home. I am realising that my days off have acquired a routine and a rhythm too over the past few months. I enjoy routine, but our holiday has left me restless and I am now craving an injection of something new. So I've started a list of adventures – large and small – to be done on days off.

Let's see where they take me.